List of friendly fire incidents

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There have been many thousands of friendly fire incidents in recorded military history, accounting for an estimated 2% to 20% of all casualties in battle.[1][2] The examples listed below illustrate their range and diversity, but this does not reflect increasing frequency. The rate of friendly fire, once allowance has been made for the numbers of troops committed to battle, has remained remarkably stable over the past 200 years.[3]

English Civil War[edit]

Nine Years' War[edit]

  • 1690 – Two French regiments accidentally attacking each other during the Battle of Fleurus led to the practice of attaching a white scarf to the flags of the regiments.[5]

French and Indian War[edit]

  • July 9, 1755 - Two main phases of friendly fire occurred during the Battle of the Monongahela, which halted the Braddock Expedition of British regular ('redcoat') and British American colonial troops after a combined force of French regulars, French-Canadian militia and allied Native Americans joined battle with them before Fort Duquesne. In the obscuring woodland conditions and confusion caused by the French musket fire and the Native Americans' war cries, several redcoat platoons fired at each other. Later in the battle many American colonials, lacking the redcoats' training in standing their ground, fled from more exposed ground and into woods, where redcoats fired on them mistaking them for advancing French fighters.[6]

American Revolutionary War[edit]

  • In the Battle of Germantown in 1777, a combination of late arrival, poor navigation and overpursuit resulted in Major General Adam Stephen's men colliding with General Anthony Wayne's troops. The two American brigades opened fire on each other, became badly disorganized, and fled.
  • In the Battle of Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781, after several volleys of musket and cannon fire between American and British troops, smoke began to obscure soldiers' view of the battlefield. In a pitched battle, smoke not only limited visibility but irritated soldiers' eyes and could make breathing difficult. In the confusion, British Lieutenant John Macleod, in command of two British three-pounders, was directed by British Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis to fire on the Americans and the British alike. Many British soldiers died as a result of friendly artillery bombardment.

Austro-Turkish War (1787-1791)[edit]

Main article: Battle of Karánsebes

(Much disputed - see main article)

On 17–18 September 1788 Different portions of an Austrian army, which were scouting for forces of the Ottoman Empire, fired on each other by mistake, causing self-inflicted decimation. The army of Austria, approximately 100,000 strong, was setting up camp around the town of Karánsebes (now Caransebeş, in modern Romania). The army's vanguard, a contingent of hussars, crossed the Timiş River nearby to scout for the presence of the Ottoman Turks. There was no sign of the Ottoman army, but the hussars did run into a group of Romani, who offered to sell schnapps to the war-weary soldiers. The cavalrymen bought the schnapps and started to drink.

Soon afterwards, some infantry crossed the river. When they saw the party, they demanded alcohol for themselves. The hussars refused and, while still drunk, set up makeshift fortifications around the barrels. A heated argument ensued, and one soldier fired a shot. Immediately, the hussars and infantry engaged in combat with one another. During the conflict, some infantry began shouting "Turci! Turci!" ("Turks! Turks!"). The hussars fled the scene, plus other minorities, many of whom could not understand each other, thinking that the Ottoman army’s attack was imminent. While it is not clear which of these groups did so, they gave the false warning without telling the others, who promptly fled. The situation was made worse when officers, in an attempt to restore order, shouted "Halt! Halt!" which was misheard by soldiers with no knowledge of German as "Allah! Allah!". As the cavalry ran through the camps, a corps commander reasoned that it was a cavalry charge by the Ottoman army, and ordered artillery fire. Meanwhile, the entire camp awoke to the sound of battle and, rather than waiting to see what the situation was, everyone fled. The troops fired at every shadow, thinking the Ottomans were everywhere; in reality they were shooting fellow Austrian soldiers. The incident escalated to the point where the whole army retreated from the imaginary enemy, and Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II was pushed off his horse into a small creek. Two days later, the Ottoman army arrived. They discovered 10,000 dead and wounded soldiers and easily took Caransebeş.

Napoleonic Wars[edit]

  • 1796 – Battle of Fombio: In a night of confused fighting when Austrian units had stumbled into his army's position, French general Amadee Laharpe was shot dead by his own men while returning from reconnaissance.
  • 1801 – Battle of Algeciras Bay: Spanish ships Real Carlos and San Hermenegildo mistakenly engaged each other in the dark after a British ship sailed between them and fired at both. 1,700 were killed when the two ships exploded.[citation needed]
  • 1809 – Battle of Wagram: French troops mistakenly fired on their allies from the Kingdom of Saxony. The grey uniforms of the Saxons were misidentified as white, the colour of uniform worn by their Austrian enemy.
  • 1815 – Battle of Waterloo: Prussian artillery mistakenly fired on British artillery causing many casualties, and British artillery returned fire at the Prussians.

American Civil War[edit]

  • During the Battle of Antietam on 17 September 1862, a Confederate regiment had maneuvered into a gap between two Union regiments, the 9th New York and the 5th Massachusetts. The Confederates launched a surprise attack during a Union advance into the west woods. The 9th New York hastily began returning fire and unknowingly hit the 5th Massachusetts with musket fire that overshot the Confederate regiment, causing the other Union regiment to return fire in confusion. The two Union regiments had sustained heavy casualties during the lengthy exchange of fire. This was one of eleven friendly fire events recorded at Antietam, which taken together, were thought to have accounted for 1,150 killed and wounded, or approximately 5% of the total casualties.[7]
  • Confederate Lieutenant General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was wounded as a result of friendly fire in the Battle of Chancellorsville on 2 May 1863, and died eight days later. He and some of his men had been returning, under the cover of night, from an intelligence-gathering mission when a Confederate patrol misidentified them as a Union cavalry scout team.[7]
  • In the Battle of the Wilderness on 6 May 1864, Confederate Lt. General James Longstreet was wounded when his mounted column was mistaken for Federal troops. As a result of this, he did not return to command until October of that year. In the same incident, Brigadier General Micah Jenkins was killed.[7]
  • In the early hours of 6 March 1865, the Union vessel USS Peterhoff was en route to blockade Wilmington, North Carolina when she was rammed and sunk by the Monticello in mistake for a blockade runner. Fortunately all hands were rescued before she sank.

Russo-Japanese War[edit]

  • Dogger Bank Incident (overnight 21/22 October 1904) - Battleships of the Russian Imperial Navy's Baltic Fleet en route to reinforce in the Far East, not only fired on a fleet of British Hull fishing trawlers in the North Sea in mistake for Japanese Imperial Navy torpedo boats after misunderstanding signals - killing two and wounding six fishermen besides sinking one and damaging four vessels - but some of them fired on each other in the foggy nocturnal conditions. As the trawlers had their nets down, they were unable to flee and, in the general chaos, Russian ships shot at each other: the cruisers Aurora and Dmitrii Donskoi were taken for Japanese warships and bombarded by seven battleships sailing in formation, damaging both ships and killing at least one Russian sailor and severely wounding another, and fatally wounding a naval chaplain. During the pandemonium, several Russian ships signalled torpedoes had hit them, and on board the battleship Borodino, rumours spread that the ship was being boarded by the Japanese, with some crews donning life vests and lying prone on the deck and others drawing cutlasses to repel a boarding before ceasefire was signalled.

World War I[edit]

  • Battle of Dinant 21-23 August 1914 - It is believed some parties of German infantry entering the Belgian city of Dinant, while under fire from French troops, fired at each other in the dark of a night attack, adding to a conviction that hostile Belgian civilians were firing on them.[8] This led to later arrests and massacres of local civilians when the town was invested and occupied. On the 23rd German artillery mistakenly fired on infantry who were occupying and barricading a street; the latter units were temporarily forced to withdraw, having shot a man held as human shield accused of having been a franc-tireur in earlier fighting.[9]
  • 25 September 1915 - In the first gas attack launched by British forces prior to their infantry attack that opened the Battle of Loos, about 140 long tons (140,000 kg) of chlorine gas was released, aimed at the German lines but in places the gas was blown back by wind onto British trenches. Due to the inefficiency of the contemporary gas masks, many soldiers removed them as they could not see through the fogged-up talc eyepieces or could barely breathe with them on. This led to some British soldiers being affected by their own gas, as it blew back across their lines or lingered in no man's land.[10]
  • On the opening of the Battle of Mount Sorrel in the Ypres Salient of Belgium, the commanding officer of the 3rd Canadian Division, Major General Malcolm Mercer, and his aide Captain Lynam Gooderham, were wounded and trapped when German artillery opened fire on divisional trenches they were inspecting on 2 June 1916. They ran into rifle crossfire when attempting to evade advancing German infantry, Mercer receiving a bullet in a leg, then remained overnight unhelped until 2 am next day when Mercer was killed by an exploding shell and Gooderham was taken prisoner by the Germans. A staff officer later claimed the fatal shell was British and Mercer is upheld as the most senior Canadian officer killed in combat and by friendly fire.[11]
  • On the night of 4–5 August 1916, during the First Battle of the Somme, the 13th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry were fired on by Australian Artillery while in process of capturing and holding onto a German communication trench called Munster Alley.
  • 17 September 1916 - During the same Battle of the Somme, a company of the 1st/7th Battalion of the Duke of Wellington's Regiment waiting to charge a German trench south of Thiepval, France, were strafed from behind by British Stokes mortar fire, the most loss of life caused when their hand grenade store was hit, detonating its contents. The mortars had been issued their battalion only a few weeks before and inexperienced firers had set too short a range aiming at enemy lines. Despite this, company commander Captain Basil Lupton rallied the survivors and led a successful taking of the opposite trench.[12]
  • At night in foul weather on 16 September 1917, the British submarine HMS G9 mistook the destroyer HMS Pasley for a German U-Boat and attacked with torpedoes. Pasley, not recognising G9 as British until too late, responded to the attack by ramming G9. Nearly cut in two, the G9 sank. Only one of the G9's crew members survived.
  • 23 January 1918 - Major William Robert Gregory, Royal Flying Corps, was shot down in mistake by an Italian pilot at Monastiero near Grossa, Padua, Italy. He inspired the poem, An Irish Airman Foresees His Death, by family friend W.B. Yeats.[13]
  • 15 April 1918 - Two British soldiers from the Somerset Light Infantry were killed and C.S. Lewis was wounded after being hit by a shrapnel from a British shell that had fallen short of its target in Mont-Bernanchon, France.[14]
  • 24/25 April 1918 - During the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, soldiers of the Australian 50th Infantry Battalion, advancing in the dark under German machine fire, attacked what they believed was an enemy trench. They found out that the trench was instead occupied by British troops of the 2nd Devon and 1st Worcester Battalions who had not been informed of the Australian counterattack and "thought the Germans were attacking them from the rear".[15]
  • During the attack on the main wagon bridge over the Marne at Château-Thierry, American machine gunners described a night attack on 1 June 1918 of massed German troops, who were singing gutturally as they made a suicidal charge, some linked arm in arm. The victims were soldiers of the French 10th Colonial division from Senegal, who had been trying to get back across the river. Although reports of the incident were suppressed, it was discussed by American and French soldiers. There are no German records of any attack on the wagon bridge.[16]
  • 16 June 1918 - During Spring Offensive, the British 4th Battalion of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry (4th KSLI), with reinforcing elements of North Staffordshires and Cheshires, were shelled by British artillery who were unaware the position had changed hands, within 30 minutes of successfully taking a hill, Montagne de Bligny, from the Germans and capturing prisoners. The bombardment reduced the units' effective strength to 100 men but their commander, Captain Geoffrey Bright, insisted on retaining the hill and sending out for reinforcements from British units until help arrived before nightfall. For the overall action the 4th KSLI received a unit award of the French Croix de Guerre.[17]
  • 13 July 1918 - British army officer and poet Siegfried Sassoon was wounded after being shot in the head by a fellow British soldier who had mistaken him for a German near Arras, France. As a result, he spent the remainder of the war in Britain.
  • 16 July 1918 - British flying ace Major Awdry Vaucour was killed[18] in the vicinity of Monastier di Treviso, Italy when he was accidentally shot down by an Italian pilot.
  • 28 July 1918 - Canadian flying ace and future spymaster William Stephenson, then posted with No. 73 Squadron RAF, was shot down and crashed his Sopwith Camel biplane behind enemy lines in France. During the incident, he later claimed, Stephenson was injured by fire not only from German ace pilot, Justus Grassmann,[19] but also by friendly fire from a French observer.[20] He was subsequently captured and held as a prisoner of war until he escaped in October 1918.[20]
  • 15 October 1918 - British submarine HMS J6, was sunk by British Q-ship Cymric in the Northumberland Coast. The captain of the Cymric Lieutenant F Peterson RNR mistook the identity lettering on the conning tower of J6 for U6. Assuming U6 to indicate a German U-boat, Peterson raised the White ensign and opened fire on J6. After a number of direct hits, J6 sank. It was only after the survivors were seen in the water that Peterson and the crew of Cymric realised their mistake and recovered the survivors. Of the crew of J6, 15 were lost; a subsequent court of enquiry found that no action should be taken against Peterson.
  • An estimated 75,000 French soldiers were casualties of friendly fire, mainly by the artillery, during World War I.[1]

Spanish Civil War[edit]

  • In 1937, the Nationalist Irish Brigade was fired upon by a Falangist unit, and the hour-long firefight resulted in 17 deaths. Neither unit had any battle experience.

World War II[edit]

1939[edit]

  • 6 September – Just days after the start of the war, in what was dubbed the Battle of Barking Creek, three RAF Spitfires from 74 Squadron shot down two Hurricanes from the RAF's 56 Squadron, killing one of the pilots. One of the Spitfires was then shot down by British anti-aircraft artillery while returning to base.[21]
  • 10 September – The British submarine HMS Triton sank another British submarine, HMS Oxley. After making challenges which went unanswered Triton assumed it must have located a German U-boat and fired two torpedoes. Oxley was the first Royal Navy vessel to be sunk and also the first vessel to be sunk by a British vessel in the war, killing 52 with only two survivors. Both vessels were patrolling off the coast of Norway (then neutral) at the time.

1940[edit]

1941[edit]

  • On 5 January 1941, while flying an Airspeed Oxford for the ATA from Blackpool to RAF Kidlington near Oxford, Amy Johnson went off course in adverse weather conditions. Reportedly out of fuel, she bailed out as her aircraft crashed into the Thames Estuary but her body was never recovered. In 1999 it was reported that Tom Mitchell, at the time a RAF fighter pilot, claimed to have shot Johnson down when she twice failed to give the correct identification code during the flight. He said: "The reason Amy was shot down was because she gave the wrong colour of the day [a signal to identify aircraft known by all British forces] over radio." Mitchell explained how the aircraft was sighted and contacted by radio. A request was made for the signal. She gave the wrong one twice. "Sixteen rounds of shells were fired and the plane dived into the Thames Estuary. We all thought it was an enemy plane until the next day when we read the papers and discovered it was Amy. The officers told us never to tell anyone what happened."[28]
  • In May, a Fleet Air Arm torpedo attack was erroneously carried out against the HMS Sheffield during the hunt for the German battleship Bismarck.[29]
  • Bardia raid (1941): On the night of 19/20 April, 450 British commandos conducted an amphibious raid against Axis forces in Bardia, Libya, to destroy an Italian supply dump and a coastal artillery battery (which were successful). While most men were successfully evacuated after the raid, one was killed by friendly fire from an overalert British commando soldier and 67 became prisoners of war after getting lost and going to the wrong beach.[30]
  • On 9 August, RAF fighter ace Wing Commander Douglas Bader was shot down in what recent research suggests was a friendly fire incident.[31]
  • 29 August – A Focke-Wulf Fw 190 plane was shot down in error by a German 8.8 cm FlaK 18/36/37/41 near the French coast and crashed on the beach south of Dunkirk. Leutnant Heinz Schenk was the first Focke-Wulf 190 pilot to be killed in action.[32]
  • 26 November – A RAF aircraft bombed the 1st Essex Regiment during Operation Crusader, causing about 40 casualties.

1942[edit]

  • 31 January – The German blockade runner Spreewald was torpedoed by German U-boat U-333, captained by U-boat ace Peter-Erich Cremer off Bordeaux.[33]
  • 13 February - Imber friendly fire incident - On Salisbury Plain training area in Wiltshire 25 military spectators, including British Home Guard, died and 71 were injured when one of the RAF planes rehearsing a tactical firepower demonstration for an upcoming visit by Winston Churchill and US General George Marshall fired at the spectator area instead of an intended target.[34] The pilot of the Hurricane, Sergeant William McLachlan, had misidentified the spectators as troop dummies, thinking that they were part of the demonstration when he opened fire. An inquest held at Warminster into the deaths[a] attributed it to misadventure. McLachlan told the inquest he lost sight of the aeroplane he was following in the haze and realised he had made a mistake after he fired. He was an American who had joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, although the coroner pointed out that, "contrary to rumour", the pilot was British and not American.[35]
  • 20 February – British Commonwealth forces during the Burma Campaign were repeatedly bombed and strafed by RAF Blenheims during a break-out attempt by a battalion surrounded by Japanese troops in Sittaung River, Burma. More than 170 British Commonwealth lives were lost due to RAF air-strikes.[36]
  • 21 February – Pilots of the 1st American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers) strafed retreating Commonwealth forces who were mistaken for an advancing Japanese column during the Burma Campaign, resulting in more than 100 casualties.[37] Around the same day, retreating British Commonwealth forces with 300 vehicles were bombed and strafed by RAF Blenheims near Mokpalin, Burma, resulting more than 110 casualties and 159 vehicles destroyed.[36]
  • 2 May - The Polish submarine ORP Jastrząb was mistakenly sunk by the British destroyer HMS St Albans and minesweeper HMS Seagull while on a convoy to Murmansk. She was attacked with depth charges and made to surface, there she was strafed with the loss of five crew and six injured, including the commander, despite lighting yellow recognition smoke candles. The ship was damaged and had to be scuttled.[citation needed]
  • During the Zhejiang-Jiangxi Campaign in May–September 1942, around 1,700 Japanese troops died out of a total 10,000 Japanese soldiers who fell ill with disease when their own biological weapons attack intended for Chinese civilians and soldiers rebounded on their own forces.[38][39]
  • The Italian submarine Alagi sank the Italian destroyer Antoniotto Usodimare on 8 June 1942.[40]
  • 27 June – a group of RAF Vickers Wellingtons bombed the units of 4th County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters), British 7th Armoured Division and the British 3rd Hussars during a two-hour raid near Mersa Matruh, Egypt, killing over 359 troops and wounding 560.[41] The aftermath of RAF raids at this time were also seen by the Germans: "... The RAF had bombed their own troops, and with tracer flying in all directions, German units fired on each other. At 0500 hours next morning 28 June, I drove up to the breakout area where we had spent such a disturbed night. There we found a number of lorries filled with the mangled corpses of New Zealanders who had been killed by the British bombs ...[42]
  • Laconia incident - there were three elements of friendly fire:
  • The RMS Laconia, a British naval transport ship, sunk by German submarine U-156 in the Atlantic Ocean off west Africa on 12 September, was carrying 1,793 Italian prisoners-of-war among its passengers, of whom 1,420 ultimately died.[43] Italy was then Germany's ally.
  • On 16 September, during the mass rescue of survivors by German vessels, a USAAF B-24 bomber under orders attacked U-156 despite the pilot having earlier received a signal conveyed by a RAF officer from the U-boat that indicated Allied passengers were on board, and the submarine bearing the Red Cross flag. This caused the U-boat to cast off its passengers in order to Crash dive to avoid destruction, and to abandon rescue attempts. (The U-156 was wrongly reported sunk in the action.)
  • On 17 September, another u-boat involved in rescue, U-506, carrying 151 survivors, was attacked by a USAAF B-25 bomber, although it failed to disable the vessel.
  • On 23 October, during the 2nd Battle of El Alamein, at 2140 hours under the cover of a barrage of 1000 guns, British infantry of the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division advanced towards the enemy lines. However, they advanced too fast into the area of fire from British artillery, causing over 60 casualties.[21]
  • During the 2nd Battle of El Alamein, RAF fighters bombed British troops during a four-hour raid, causing 56 casualties. The British 10th Royal Hussars were among the victims; they did not know the proper signals to call off their planes.[21]
  • British submarine HMS Unbeaten completed Operation Bluestone, landing an agent in Spain near Bayona, then completed her patrol in the Bay of Biscay and was returning to the UK when she went missing. It is believed that she was probably attacked and sunk in error by an RAF Wellington bomber of No. 172 Squadron, Coastal Command in the Bay of Biscay on 11 November 1942 . She was lost with all hands.[44]

1943[edit]

  • The German blockade runner and minelayer Doggerbank was mistaken for a British freighter and sunk by the submarine U-43 in the mid-Atlantic. Of the 365 men on board, only one survived.[45]
  • On 9 May, the destroyers HMS Bicester and HMS Oakley, on deployment in the Mediterranean found themselves under air attack by Spitfire aircraft; the Bicester sustained extensive damage from a near miss, with the bomb exploding alongside causing major flooding. The Bicester was taken in tow to Malta for temporary repairs, and required permanent repairs in the United Kingdom, which were carried out between August and September.
  • Operation Chastise: On 16–17 May, nineteen RAF Lancaster bombers of No. 617 Squadron were dispatched to attack dams in Eder, Möhne and Sorpe (Röhr) rivers near Germany, using a specially developed "bouncing bomb" invented and developed by Barnes Wallis. Möhne and Edersee Dams were breached, causing catastrophic flooding of the Ruhr valley and of villages in the Eder valley. An estimated 1,600 people were killed by the floods; 1,519 of them were Allied prisoners of war.
  • During the Allied invasion of Sicily, Operation Husky, 144 C-47 transport planes passed over Allied lines shortly after a German air raid, and were mistakenly fired upon by US ground and naval forces. 23 planes were shot down and 37 damaged, resulting in 318 casualties including about 100 paratroopers killed.[46]
  • General Omar Bradley recalled that his column was attacked by American A-36s in Sicily. The tanks lit yellow smoke flares to identify themselves to their own aircraft but the attacks continued, forcing the column to return fire which resulted in the downing of one aircraft. A parachuting pilot from the downed A-36 was brought before Bradley. 'You stupid sonofabitch!!' Bradley fumed. 'Didn't you see our yellow recognition signals!?' The pilot replied 'Oh, is that what that was?'.[47]
  • 12 August 1943 - Flight Sergeant Arthur Louis Aaron was fatally wounded when the Short Stirling bomber he piloted during an air raid on Turin was reportedly (according to his posthumous Victoria Cross citation) hit by machine gun fire from an enemy night fighter, which killed his navigator and wounded other crew members, although it is believed it may have been friendly fire from another Stirling.[48] He died, after successfully landing the plane in Algeria, nine hours later.
  • During Operation Cottage after Allied forces occupied Kiska Island, US and Canadian forces mistook each other as Japanese and engaged each other in a deadly firefight. As a result, 28 Americans and 4 Canadians were killed with 50 more wounded. There were no Japanese troops on the island two weeks before US and Canadian Forces landed. Meanwhile, thinking they were engaging Americans, Imperial Japanese Navy battleships shelled and attempted to torpedo neighbouring Little Kiska Island where Japanese soldiers were waiting to embark.[49]

1944[edit]

  • 28 January, a train carrying 800 Allied prisoners of war was bombed when it crossed a bridge on the Ponte Paglia in Allerona, Italy, approximately 400 British, U.S. and South African prisoners being killed. In anticipation of the Allied advance, the POWs had been evacuated from PG Campo 54 at Fara-in-Sabina outside of Rome, and were being transported to Germany in unmarked cattle cars. The POWs had been padlocked in the cars and were crossing the bridge when B-26s of the 320th Bombardment Group arrived to blow up the bridge. The driver stopped the train on the span, leaving the prisoners locked inside to their fate. While many escaped, approximately 400 were killed, according to local records, and witness testimony. The mass graves were later destroyed by subsequent bombardments.[50]
  • On the morning of 27 March, two US Motor Torpedo Boats (PT-121 and PT-353) were destroyed in error by P-40 Kittyhawks of No. 78 Squadron RAAF, along with an RAAF Bristol Beaufighter of No. 30 Squadron RAAF. A second Beaufighter crew recognized the vessels as PTs and tried to stop the attack, but not before both boats exploded and sank off the coast of New Britain. Eight American sailors were killed, with 12 others wounded. Survivors were rescued by PT-346, which itself became a friendly fire victim the following month.
  • 28 April. Exercise Tiger, a nine-day rehearsal for the D-Day landings on Utah Beach, was marred when troops landed at Slapton Sands during a live firing exercise. American soldiers crossed into an area which was being shelled with live ammunition by the British heavy cruiser HMS Hawkins. One source put the number of deaths at 308 American soldiers, more than the casualties on Utah Beach during D-Day itself.
  • 29 April. US Navy PT-346 itself became the victim of friendly fire, when sent to the aid of PT-347, which had become stuck on a reef during a night patrol to intercept enemy barges and destroy shore installations off the coast of Rabaul in Lassul Bay, located off the northwest corner of New Britain Island in New Guinea. At 0700, PT-350 was attempting to dislodge PT-347 from the reef, when two American Marine Corsair planes mistook the PT boats for Japanese gunboats and attacked. Taking heavy fire from the planes, PT-350 shot down one of the two attacking fighters, believing them to be A6M Zeros. With three dead and four wounded and serious mechanical problems, PT-350 headed back to base. PT-347 remained stuck on the reef. When PT-350 could not be boarded because of extensive damage, PT-346 headed out to PT-347 to provide assistance. PT-346 arrived at 1230, and at 1400 was still attempting to dislodge PT-347 from the coral heads when planes appeared. The Corsair plane from the morning run brought back an entire squadron of 21 planes (four Corsairs, six TBF Avenger torpedo bombers, four F6F Hellcat fighters, and eight SBD Dauntless dive bombers). Recognizing the planes as American and thinking they were the air cover he had ordered, the squadron commander ordered the men to keep working; however, the planes attacked the two boats, still mistaking them for Japanese gunboats. PT-346 did not respond defensively until it was too late, and took heavy casualties. The skipper of PT-347, Lieutenant Williams, who had experienced the earlier attack, ordered his men into the water and to stay dispersed, but two men were killed and three wounded. PT-346 and PT-347 were completely destroyed by bombs, and the men were strafed in the water for approximately one hour.
  • 5–6 June, several RAF Avro Lancasters attempting to bomb the German artillery battery at Merville-Franceville-Plage attacked instead friendly positions, killing 186 soldiers of the British Reconnaissance Corps and devastating the town. They also mistakenly bombed Drop Zone 'V ' of the 6th Airborne Division, killing 78 and injuring 65.[51]
  • 6 June, RAF fighters bombed and strafed the HQ entourage of 3rd Parachute Brigade (British 6th Airborne Division) near Pegasus Bridge after mistaking them for a German column. At least 15 men were killed and many others were wounded.[52]
  • 8 June, a group of RAF Hawker Typhoons attacked the 175th Infantry Regiment, 29th U.S. Infantry Division on the Isigny Highway, France, causing 24 casualties.[53]
  • During Operation Cobra, the American offensive push south from western Normandy, bombs from the U.S. Eighth Air Force landed on American troops on two separate occasions.
    • On 24 July, some 1,600 bombers flew in support of the opening bombardment for Cobra. Due to bad weather they were unable to see their targets. Although some were recalled, and others declined to bomb without visibility, a number did, which hit U.S. positions. Twenty-five were killed and 131 wounded in this incident.
    • The following day, on 25 July, the operation was repeated by 1,800 bombers of 8th Air Force. On this occasion, the weather was clear, but despite requests by First Army commander Gen. Omar Bradley to bomb east to west, along the front in order to avoid creepback, the air commanders made their attack north to south, over Allied lines. As more and more bombs fell short, and U.S. positions again were hit, 111 were killed and 490 wounded. Lieutenant General Lesley McNair was among the dead, the highest-ranking victim of American friendly fire.
  • 26 July, USAAF P-47s mistakenly strafed the US 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion near Perrières, France. 20 men were badly injured, but there were no fatalities.[54]
  • On 27 July, the former HMS Sunfish was sunk by a British RAF Coastal Command aircraft in the Norwegian Sea during the beginning of its process of being transferred to the Soviet Navy. The Captain, Israel Fisanovich, supposedly had taken her out of her assigned area and was diving the sub when the aircraft came in sight instead of staying on the surface and firing signal flares as instructed. All crew, including the British liaison staff, were lost. Later investigation revealed that the RAF crew were at fault.[55]
  • 7 August, a RAF Hawker Typhoon strafed a squad from 'F' Company/US 120th Infantry Regiment, near Hill 314, France, killing two men.[56] Around noon on the same day, RAF Hawker Typhoon of the 2TAF was called in to assist the US 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion in stopping an attack by the 2nd SS Panzer Division between Sourdeval and Mortain but instead fired its rockets at two US 3-inch guns near L'Abbaye Blanche, killing one man and wounding several others even after the yellow smoke (which was to identify friendlies) was put out. Two hours later, an RAF Typhoon shot up the Service Company of the 120th Infantry Regiment, US 30th Division, causing several casualties, including Major James Bynum who was killed near Mortain. The officer who replaced him was strafed by another Typhoon a few minutes later and seriously wounded. Around the same time, a Hawker Typhoon attacked the Cannon Company of 120th Infantry Regiment, US 30th Division, near Mortain, killing 15 men.[56] An hour later, RAF Typhoons strafed 'B' Company/US 120th Infantry Regiment on Hill 285, killing a driver of a weapons carrier.[57]
  • Two battalions of the 77th Infantry on Guam exchanged prolonged fire on 8 August 1944, the incident possibly started with the firing of mortars for range-finding and angle calibration purposes. Small arms and then armour fire was exchanged. The mistake was realized when both units tried to call in the same artillery battalion to bombard the other.[58]
  • 8 August, 8th USAAF heavy bombers bombed the headquarters of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and 1st Polish Armoured Division during Operation Totalize, killing 65 and wounding 250 Allied soldiers.[59]
  • 8 August, near Mortain, France, RAF Hawker Typhoons attacked two Sherman tanks of 'C' Company, US 743rd Tank Battalion with rockets, killing 5 tank crewmen and wounding 10 soldiers. Later that day, two Shermans from 'A' Company, US 743rd Tank Battalion were destroyed and set ablaze by RAF Typhoons near Mortain. One tank crewman was killed and 12 others wounded.[60]
  • 9 August, a RAF Hawker Typhoon strafed units of the British Columbia Regiment and the Algonquin Regiment, 4th Canadian Armoured Division, near Quesnay Wood during Operation Totalize, causing several casualties. Later that day, the same units were mistakenly fired upon by tanks and artillery of the 1st Polish Armoured Division, resulting in more casualties.
  • 12 August, RAF Hawker Typhoons fired rockets at Shermans of 'A' Company, US 743rd Tank Battalion, near Mortain, France, causing damage to one tank and badly injuring 2 tank crewmen.[61]
  • 13 August, 12 British soldiers of 'B' Company, 4th Wiltshires, 43rd Wessex Division, were killed and 25 others wounded when they were hit by rockets and machine gun attacks by RAF Typhoons near La Villette, Calvados, France.[62]
  • 14 August, RAF heavy bombers hit Allied troops in error during Operation Tractable causing about 490 casualties including 112 dead. The bombings also destroyed 265 Allied vehicles, 30 field guns and two tanks. British anti-aircraft guns opened fire on the RAF bombers and some may have been hit.
  • 17 August, RAF fighters attacked the soldiers of the British 7th Armoured Division, resulting in 20 casualties, including the intelligence officer of 8th Hussars who was badly injured. The colonel riding along was badly shaken when their jeep crashed off the road.[63]
  • 14–18 August, the South Alberta Regiment of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division came under fire six times by RAF Spitfires, resulting in over 57 casualties. Many vehicles were also set on fire and the yellow smoke used for signalling friendlies was ignored by Spitfire pilots. An officer of the South Alberta demanded that he wanted his Crusader AA tanks to shoot at the Spitfires attacking his Headquarters.[64]
  • On 27 August, a minesweeping flotilla of Royal Navy ships came under fire. At about noon of the 27th, HMS Britomart, Salamander, Hussar and Jason came under rocket and cannon attacks by Hawker Typhoons of No. 263 Squadron RAF and No. 266 Squadron RAF. HMS Britomart and HMS Hussar took direct hits and were sunk. HMS Salamander had her stern blown off and sustained heavy damage. HMS Jason was raked by machine gun fire, killing and wounding several of her crew. Two of the accompanying trawlers were also hit. The total loss of life was 117 sailors killed and 153 wounded. The attack had continued despite the attempts by the ships to signal that they were friendly and radio requests by the commander of the aircraft for clarification of his target. In the aftermath the surviving sailors were told to keep quiet about the attack. The subsequent court of enquiry identified the fault as lying with the Navy, who had requested the attack on what they thought were enemy vessels entering or leaving Le Havre, and three RN officers were put before a court martial. The commander of the Jason and his crew were decorated for their part in rescuing their comrades. At the time reporting of the incident was suppressed with information not fully released until 1994.[65][66][67]
  • 12 September, a group of RAF Hawker Typhoons destroyed two Sherman tanks of the Governor General's Foot Guards, 4th Canadian Armoured Division in the vicinity of Maldegem, Belgium, killing 3 men and injuring 4. One Canadian soldier from the 4th Canadian Armored Division wounded recalled this incident saying "... while so deployed the tanks were suddenly attacked, in mistake, by several Typhoon aircraft. Lt. Middleton-Hope's tank was badly hit, killing the gunner Guardsman Hughes, and the tank was set on fire. Almost immediately Sgt. Jenning's tank was similarly knocked out by Typhoon rockets. Meanwhile the Typhoons continued to press home their attack with machine guns and rockets, and, while trying to extricate the gunner, Lt. Middleton-Hope was killed after his tank was blown off. In this tragic encounter, Guardsman Scott was also killed and Baker, Barter, and Cheal were seriously wounded."[68]
  • 18 September, the Japanese cargo ship Junyō Maru was packed with 1,377 Dutch, 64 British and Australian, and 8 American[69] prisoners of war along with 4,200 Javanese slave labourers (Romushas) bound for work on a railway line being built in Sumatra when she was attacked and sunk by British submarine HMS Tradewind (P329), whose commander, Lt.Cdr Lynch Maydon did not know there were Allied prisoners of war on board.[70] At that time it was the world's greatest sea disaster with 5,620 dead[71] as well as the worst single friendly fire loss (surpassed by the Cap Arcona disaster next year) and highest death toll inflicted in a single action by British forces. 680 survivors were rescued, the prisoners of whom went on to their intended destination.
  • 19 September, RAF Sergeant Bernard McCormack, a gunner in a Lancaster bomber, was returning along with other RAF aircrews from a night time raid over Nazi Germany. As they returned to RAF Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire, Sgt McCormack saw a plane flying in the same formation as he was. Believing that it was a German Junkers Ju 88, he attacked the plane, bringing it down over the Dutch town of Steenbergen. Two of the occupants were killed. It was found out by RAF intelligence officers that it was actually a British Mosquito flown by CO Guy Gibson, who previously took part in Operation Chastise, and his navigator Jim Warwick. Wracked with guilt, McCormack taped a confession, which he entrusted to his wife Eunice when he died in 1992.[72]
  • In October, Soviet troops liberated the city of Niš from occupying German forces and advanced on Belgrade. At the same time, the U.S. Army Air Forces was bombing German-Albanian units entering from Kosovo. The U.S. planes mistook the advancing Soviet tanks as enemies (probably due to a lack of communications) and began attacking them, whereupon the Soviets then called in for air support from Niš airport and a five-minute dogfight ensued, ending after both the U.S. and Soviet commanders ordered the planes to retreat.[citation needed]
  • Canadian artillery units were rushed in to support the retreating American forces as a counterattack against the advancing German Army during the early stages of the Ardennes Offensive. When American troops were making a retreat north of the Ardennes, the Canadians mistook them for a German column. The Canadian artillery guns opened fire on them, resulting in 76 American deaths and many as 138 wounded.[73]
  • 25 December 1944 - Major George E. Preddy, commander of the U.S.A.A.F. 328th Fighter Squadron, was the highest-scoring U.S. ace still in combat in the European Theater at the time when he died on Christmas Day near Liege in Belgium. Preddy was chasing a German fighter over an American anti-aircraft battery and was hit by their fire aimed at his intended target.
  • Operation Wintergewitter (Winter Storm) – Italian Front:[74] American forward observer John R. Fox called down fire on his own position to stop a German advance on the town of Sommocolonia, Italy. In 1997 he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for this action.

1945[edit]

  • Operation Bodenplatte (Baseplate): 900 German fighters and fighter-bombers launched a surprise attack on Allied airfields. Approximately 300 aircraft were lost, 237 pilots killed, missing, or captured, and 18 pilots wounded – the largest single-day loss for the Luftwaffe. Many losses were due to fire from Luftwaffe anti-aircraft batteries, whose crew members had not been informed of the attack.
  • On 23 January, a group of Royal Air Force fighters strafed the assault gun platoon (105mm Sherman tanks) of US 743rd Tank Battalion, near Sart-Lez-St.Vith, Belgium, killing 6 men and wounded 15.[75]
  • On April 24, the Royal Air Force attacking military targets in Rangoon, Burma, bombed a jail in the belief that it was a command center for the Japanese Army. Unfortunately, the jail was actually not a Japanese command center but full of Allied prisoners of war. Over 30 Allied POWs were killed.[76]
  • The March (1945) – On 19 April, at a village called Gresse, a flight of RAF Typhoons strafed a column of Allied POWs during the death march after mistaking them as retreating German troops, killing 30 and fatally injured 30 more.
  • Cap Arcona incident – Although it did not involve troops in combat, this incident has been referred to as "the worst friendly-fire incident in history".[77] On 3 May, the three ships Cap Arcona, Thielbek, and the SS Deutschland in Lübeck Harbour were sunk in four separate, but synchronized attacks with bombs, rockets, and cannons by the Royal Air Force, resulting in the death of over 7,000 Jewish concentration camp survivors and Russian prisoners of war, along with POWs from several other allies.[77][78] The British pilots were unaware that these ships carried POWs and concentration camp survivors,[79] although British documents were released in the 1970s that state the Swedish government had informed the RAF command of the risk prior to the attack.[80][81]
  • 14 May - Several days after the German surrender, U-boat ace Wolfgang Luth was shot and killed by a sentry while walking after dark at the German naval base at Flensburg-Marwik.
  • 6th and 9th August - 20 Allied Prisoners of War died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atom Bombings.

1948 Arab–Israeli War[edit]

  • 10 June 1948: Mickey Marcus, Israel's first general, was shot and killed by a sentry while returning at night to his headquarters.
  • 8 June 1967, during the Six-Day War: An Israeli pilot mistakenly identified the USS Liberty as an Egyptian vessel, and opened fire, also calling for backup from a nearby israeli ship. The combined air and sea attack killed 34 crew members (naval officers, seamen, two Marines, and one civilian), wounded 171 crew members, and severely damaged the ship. At the time, the ship was in international waters north of the Sinai Peninsula, about 25.5 nmi (29.3 mi; 47.2 km) northwest from the Egyptian city of Arish. Israel apologized for the attack, saying that the USS Liberty had been attacked in error after being mistaken for an Egyptian ship. Both the Israeli and U.S. governments conducted inquiries and issued reports that concluded the attack was a mistake due to Israeli confusion about the ship's identity.

Korean War[edit]

  • On 3 July 1950, eight F-51s of No. 77 Squadron RAAF strafed and destroyed a train carrying thousands of American and South Korean soldiers who were mistaken for a North Korean convoy in the main highway between Suwon and P'yongtaek, resulting more than 700 casualties. Before the attack, the Australian pilots had been assured by the United States 5th Air Force Tactical Control Centre that the area under attack was in North Korean hands.
  • On 23 September 1950, Hill 282 was attacked by 1st Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, part of the British 27th Infantry Brigade in the United Nations force. Having captured it and facing strong North Korean counter-attacks, the Argylls, devoid of artillery support, called in an Allied air-strike. A group of U.S. Air Force F-51 Mustangs of the 18th Fighter Bomber Wing circled the hill. The Argylls had laid down yellow air-recognition panels correctly in accordance with that day's planning, but the North Koreans imitated similar panels on their own positions in white. The Mustangs, confused by the panels, mistakenly napalm-bombed and strafed the Argylls' hill-top positions. Despite a desperate counter-attack by the Argylls to regain the hill, for which Major Kenneth Muir was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, the Argylls, much reduced in numbers, were forced to relinquish the position. Over 60 of the Argylls' casualties were caused by friendly air-strike.
  • During the Battle of Wawon, fleeing soldiers of the South Korean II Corps were mistaken by the Turkish Brigade as Chinese which led to an exchange of fire. As a result 20 South Korean soldiers were killed and 4 others wounded with 14 Turkish deaths and 6 wounded.[citation needed]

Mau Mau uprising[edit]

  • On June 13, 1953, members of the British 5th King's African Rifles B Company entered the Chuka area in Kenya to flush out rebels suspected of hiding in the nearby forests. Over the next few days, on what was known as the Chuka Massacre, the regiment had captured and executed 20 people suspected of being Mau Mau fighters for unknown reasons. It is found out that the people executed actually belonged to the Kikuyu Home Guard — a loyalist militia recruited by the British to fight an increasingly powerful and audacious guerrilla enemy. In an atmosphere of atrocity and reprisal, the matter was swept under the carpet and nobody ever stood trial for the massacre.[citation needed]

Cyprus Emergency[edit]

  • December 12, 1955: On the Troodos mountains near the village of Spilia during the Battle of Spilia, British units from the north and ones from the south, unable to see the fog and in the belief that they were surrounded by EOKA fighters, engaged each other in an eight hour firefight involving airstrikes, artillery bombardments, and heavy weapons.[citation needed] This firefight caused over 250 casualties, making it the deadliest friendly fire incident of the war.

Vietnam War[edit]

Aft view of the bridge of the USCGC Point Welcome after the friendly fire incident of 11 August 1966.[82]

It has been estimated that there may have been as many as 8,000 friendly fire incidents in the Vietnam War;[2][83][84][85] one was the inspiration for the book and film Friendly Fire.

  • 2 January 1966, in Bao Trai in the Mekong Delta during joint Australian/American forces fighting the Vietcong, a USAF Cessna O-1 Bird Dog flying at low level accidentally flew through Australian and New Zealand artillery fire. The aircraft tail was blown off and the aircraft dived into the ground, killing the pilot instantly.[86]
  • 3 January 1966, near Bao Trai, at midnight, Sergeant Jerry Morton from 'C' Company, the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment had called in marker white phosphorus rounds ahead of the company from the supporting New Zealand gun battery on a suspected enemy position. However, due to the bad coordinates given by Morton, the rounds instead landed on the Australian forces. Morton along with another Australian soldier were killed and several others wounded.[86]
  • 3 January 1966, two rounds fired by 161 Battery, Royal New Zealand Artillery accidentally landed on the US 173rd Airborne Brigade, killing three paratroopers and wounding seven during Operation Marauder.[86][87]
  • 11 August 1966, while supporting Operation Market Time, USCGC Point Welcome (WPB-82329) was attacked by USAF aircraft, resulting in the deaths of two Coast Guardsmen.[88]
  • 6 February 1967, twelve rounds from New Zealand artillery accidentally landed on the Australian 'D' Company 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, killing four and thirteen injured in west of Song Rai river between Nui Dat and Xuyên Mộc District.[89]
  • 19 November 1967, a U.S. Marine Corps. F4 Phantom aircraft dropped a 500 lb (230 kg) bomb on the command post of the 2nd Battalion (Airborne) 503d Infantry, 173d Airborne Brigade while they were in heavy contact with a numerically superior NVA force. At least 45 paratroopers were killed and another 45 wounded. Also killed was the Battalion Chaplain Major Charles J. Watters, who was subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor.
  • 18 March 1968, around 10 Marines were killed by MACV-SOG operators mistaking them for enemy forces, when such operators were trying to ambush the supposed enemies. The incident was result of stress and a bad intel, as their commander said that the area was in enemy control.
  • 5 February 1969, Sgt. Tony Lee Griffith, of H Co. 75th Infantry (Ranger), led his five-man long-range reconnaissance team through thick fog and dense, short brush between An Loc and the Cambodian border. Hearing wood being chopped not far off a trail they were assigned to surveil, he had his team set ambush. But members of the North Vietnamese Army had also detected the team. At dawn several enemy soldiers stole through the fog and flung a grenade into the middle of the team, who were spread in line by the trail, in sight of each other. The grenade exploded next to the front scout, Cpl. Richard E. Wilkie, showering him with shrapnel. As the enemy opened fire, the two team members on Wilkie's left panicked and fired in the direction of the grenade's blast. Caught in an intense crossfire, Wilkie, a Special Forces veteran, was shot five times––once by the enemy, twice by his team, and twice by bullets that passed through him. Miraculously, he survived. So, too, did the assistant team leader, Lewis D. Davidson, who was hit twice in the leg. Tony Griffith's luck, however, ended that morning, when he was hit by multiple gunshots to the chest.[90]
  • 11 May 1969, during the Battle of Hamburger Hill, Lt. Col. Weldon Honeycutt directed helicopter gunships, from an Aerial Rocket Artillery (ARA) battery, to support an infantry assault. In the heavy jungle, the helicopters mistook the command post of the 3/187th battalion for a Vietnamese unit and attacked, killing two and wounding thirty-five, including Honeycutt. This incident disrupted battalion command and control and forced 3/187th to withdraw into night defensive positions.
  • 1 May 1970, on military operations in Phước Tuy Province a burst of machine gun fire followed by a calls for the Medic split the night, an Australian machine gunner opened fire on soldiers of the 8th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment without warning, killing two and wounded two other soldiers.[91]
  • 20 July 1970, patrol units of 'D' Company 8th Battalion, 1st Australian Task Force outside the wire at Nui Dat called in a New Zealand battery fire mission as part of a training exercise. However there was confusion at the gun position about the fire corrections issued by the inexperienced Australian officer with the patrol. The result was two rounds fell upon the patrol, killing two and wounding several others.[92]
  • 24 July 1970, New Zealand artillery guns accidentally shelled an Australian platoon, 1 Australian Reinforcement Unit, (1 ARU), killing two and wounding another four soldiers.[93]
  • 10 May 1972, a VPAF MiG-21 was shot down in error by a North Vietnamese surface-to-air missile near Tuyen Quang, killing a pilot.[94]
  • 2 June 1972, a VPAF MiG-19 was shot down in error by a North Vietnamese surface-to-air missile near Kep Province, killing a pilot.[95]

The Troubles[edit]

On 13 September 1969, British Lance Corporal Michael Spurway, of 24 Airportable HQ and Signal Squadron, was accidentally shot dead by a fellow British soldier while he was on the telephone to his wife, shortly after returning to his base at Gosford Castle after manning a rebroadcast station supporting 3 LI rear link communications.[96][97]

1974 Turkish Invasion of Cyprus[edit]

  • The Turkish destroyer D-354 Kocatepe was sunk by Turkish warplanes after being mistaken for an enemy ship.
  • A flight of Greek Nord Noratlas aircraft transports carrying reinforcements from Greece was mistaken for a flight of Turkish aircraft by the defenders of Nicosia International Airport, who opened fire. Heavy Greek casualties were sustained.

1982 Falklands War[edit]

  • A Dassault Mirage III was shot down by Argentine Anti-Aircraft and small arms fire at Port Stanley while an A-4 Skyhawk was downed by a 35mm antiaircraft battery near Goose Green. Both aircraft belonged to the Argentine Air Force.
  • Companies A and C of the 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, British Army engaged each other in an hour-long firefight in the Falkland Islands involving heavy weapons and artillery strikes, resulting in eight casualties.
  • 2 June – A friendly fire incident took place between the SAS and the Special Boat Squadron (SBS). An SBS patrol had apparently strayed into the SAS patrol's designated area and were mistaken for Argentine forces. A brief firefight was initiated during which one of the SBS patrol, Sergeant Ian Hunt, was killed.[98]
  • 1982 British Army Gazelle friendly fire incident – Due to a lack of communication between the Army and the Navy, the destroyer HMS Cardiff shot down a British Gazelle helicopter over the Falkland Islands, killing four British soldiers.
  • Two nights before the Battle of Two Sisters, British units of 45 Commando Royal Marines on reconnaissance patrol were mistaken for Argentine units in the dark and the British mortar group opened up on them, only to be met with a withering hail of fire from the 45 Commando in return. In the confusion, five British troops died, including the mortar troop sergeant, and two were wounded.[99]
  • June 11 – A British Royal Navy frigate, HMS Avenger (F185), fired a 4.5 inch explosive shell into a house while shelling a port in Stanley, killing three British civilian women and wounding several others. They are the only British civilian casualties of the war.[100][101]

1991 Gulf War[edit]

War in Afghanistan from 2001[edit]

  • In the Tarnak Farm incident of 18 April 2002, four Canadian soldiers were killed and eight others injured when U.S. Air National Guard Major Harry Schmidt, dropped a laser-guided 500 lb (230 kg) bomb from his F-16 jet fighter on the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry regiment which was conducting a night firing exercise near Kandahar. Schmidt was charged with negligent manslaughter, aggravated assault, and dereliction of duty. He was found guilty of the latter charge. During testimony Schmidt blamed the incident on his use of "go pills" (authorized mild stimulants), combined with the 'fog of war'.[102] The Canadian dead received US medals for "bravery", but no apology.
  • Pat Tillman, a former professional American football player, was shot and killed by American fire in 22 April 2004. An Army Special Operations Command investigation was conducted by Brigadier General Jones and the U.S. Department of Defense concluded that Pat Tillman's death was due to friendly fire aggravated by the intensity of the firefight. A more thorough investigation concluded that no hostile forces were involved in the firefight and that two allied groups fired on each other in confusion after a nearby explosive device was detonated.
  • On 6 April 2006, a British convoy in Afghanistan wounded 13 Afghan police officers and killed one, after calling in a US airstrike on what they thought was a Taliban attack.[103]
  • In Sangin Province, a female RAF Harrier pilot[104] mistakenly strafed British troops missing the enemy by 200 metres during a firefight with the Taliban on 20 August 2006.
  • Canadian soldiers opened fire on a white pickup truck, about 25 kilometres west of Kandahar, killing an Afghan officer with 6 others injured on 26 August 2006.[105]
  • Operation Medusa (2006): 1 – Two U.S. A-10 Thunderbolts accidentally strafed NATO forces in southern Afghanistan, killing Canadian Private Mark Anthony Graham.
  • On 5 December 2006, an F/A-18C on a Close Air Support mission in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, mistakenly attacked a trench where British Royal Marines were dug-in during a 10-hour battle with Taliban fighters, killing one Royal Marine.[106]
  • Lance Corporal Matthew Ford, from Zulu Company of 45 Commando Royal Marines, died after receiving a gunshot wound in Afghanistan on 15 January 2007, which was later found to be due to friendly fire. The final inquest ruled he died from NATO rounds from a fellow Royal Marine's machine gun. The report added there was no "negligence" by the other Marine, who had made a "momentary error of judgment".[107][108]
  • Canadian troops mistakenly killed an Afghan National Police officer and a homeless beggar after their convoy was ambushed in Kandahar City.[109]
  • Of two helicopters called in to support operations by the British Grenadier Guards and Afghan National Army forces in Helmand, the British Westland WAH-64 Apache engaged enemy forces, while the accompanying American AH-64D Apache opened fire on the Grenadiers and Afghan troops.[110]
  • 23 August 2007: A USAF F-15 called in to support British ground forces in Afghanistan dropped a bomb on those forces. Three privates of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment, were killed and two others were severely injured. It was later revealed that the British forward air controller who called in the strike had not been issued a noise-cancelling headset, and while he supplied the correct target co-ordinates, in the confusion and stress of the battle incorrectly confirmed one wrong digit mistakenly repeated by the pilot, and the bomb landed on the British position 1000 metres away from the enemy.[111] The coroner at the soldiers' inquest stated that the incident was due to "flawed application of procedures" rather than individual errors or "recklessness".[112]
  • British soldiers in operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, fired Javelin anti-tank missiles at Danish soldiers from the Royal Life Guards, killing two.[113] It is also confirmed from Danish forces that the British fired a total of 6–8 Javelin missiles, over a 1½ hour period and only after the attack was completed did they realize that the missiles were British, based upon the fragments found after the incident.[114]
  • On 12 January 2008, two Dutch soldiers and two allied Afghan soldiers were shot dead by fellow Dutch soldiers in Uruzgan, Afghanistan.[115]
  • In the night on 14 January 2008 in Helmand Province, British troops saw some Afghans "conducting suspicious activities". Visibility was too bad for rifle-fire and they were too far away to call in mortar strikes. The squad decided to use a Javelin anti-tank missile they were carrying. British soldiers fired their missile on the nearby roof but the victims were their own Afghan army sentries. One Afghan soldier was killed.[116]
  • On 9 July 2008, nine British soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment were injured after being fired upon by British Army Apache helicopter while on patrol in Afghanistan.[117]
  • A statement issued jointly by the American and the Afghan military commands said a contingent of Afghan police officers fired on United States forces on 10 December 2008 after the Americans had successfully overrun the hide-out, killing the suspected Taliban commander and detaining another man. The US forces after securing the hideout came under heavy small arms fire and explosive grenades from the Afghan Police forces. "Multiple attempts to deter the engagement were unsuccessful," and the US forces returned fire. Afghan police have stated that they came under fire first and that the initial firing on the US forces came from the building next to the police station. This has led the US forces to conclude that the Afghan police forces might have been compromised. Initial reports indicate that this was a tragic case of mistaken identity on both parts.[118]
  • Captain Tom Sawyer, aged 26, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, and Corporal Danny Winter, aged 28, Zulu Company 45 Commando Royal Marines, were killed by an explosion on 14 January 2009. Both men were taking part in a joint operation with a Danish Battle Group and the Afghan National Army in a location north east of Gereshk in central Helmand Province. The MoD subsequently confirmed that two men died from friendly fire when they were hit in error by a Javelin anti-tank missile fired by British troops.[119]
  • A British Military Police officer was shot dead by a fellow British soldier while on patrol.[120] It was reported that no charges are to be brought against a British army sniper who killed a British Military Policeman because he was allowed to open fire if he believed that his life was in danger.[121]
  • Lance Corporal Christopher Roney from 3rd Battalion The Rifles was shot and killed by a U.S. Apache helicopter during a firefight with the Taliban in December 2009. The incident happened when a firefight was going on between British soldiers of 3rd Battalion The Rifles and the insurgents in Sangin Province. Senior British officers were watching a drone's grainy images of the fight from Camp Bastion, about 30 miles from the battle at Patrol Base Almas. The officers mistook the soldiers' mud-walled compound for an enemy position and called down a U.S. Apache airstrike on the base. Roney was fatally shot in the head after a helicopter gunship opened fire on the base. He died later the next day after being taken to Camp Bastion. Eleven other British soldiers were wounded in the attack. The coroner criticised the British commanders for the fact Patrol Base Almas was not marked on military maps, for the 'unprofessional' use of grainy images and for insisting there were no friendly forces in the area to the Apache crew.[122]
  • German soldiers killed six Afghan soldiers in a friendly fire incident on their way to attack a group of Taliban. Afghan soldiers were traveling in support of other Afghan troops in the area. The German Patrol opened fire killing six.[123]
  • Sapper Mark Antony Smith, age 26, of the 36 Engineer Regiment, Royal Engineers, was killed by a smoke shell fired upon by British troops in Sangin Province, Afghanistan. The MoD is investigating his death and said a smoke shell, designed to provide cover for soldiers working on the ground, may have fallen short of its intended target.[124][125]
  • Friendly fire between ISAF and Pakistan on 26 November 2011. ISAF forces opened fire on Pakistani forces killing 24 Pakistani soldiers and causing a great diplomatic standoff between U.S. and Pakistan. ISAF forces argue they were there to hunt down militants at the AF-PAK border. Pakistan has stopped transit of goods through its territory to ISAF in Afghanistan because of the incident. U.S. has to apologise to resume the transit route.
  • Two New Zealand soldiers were wounded by friendly fire from a 25mm gun mounted on an armored LAV during a 12 minute firefight with insurgents in Bamyan Province on 4 August 2012.[126][127]
  • A British female soldier and a Royal Marine was mistakenly killed by another British unit on patrol after her unit opened fire on an Afghan policeman assuming he was a Taliban insurgent. The British unit who killed a female soldier and a Royal Marine assumed they were under attack after the firing happened.[128]
  • Five United States Special forces operatives, an Afghan Army counterpart, and an interpreter were killed by friendly fire in Southern Zabul Province on June 9, 2014. Whilst on patrol, and coming under heavy Taliban fire, an air-strike was called in and a B-1 Lancer bomber misdirected its payload killing the seven military pesonnel amongst others.[129][130]

Iraq War from 2003[edit]

Video of the 28 March 2003 friendly fire incident, showing errors of identification
  • In the Battle of Nasiriyah, an American force of Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs) and infantry under intense enemy fire were misidentified as an Iraqi armored column by two U.S. Air Force A-10s who carried out bombing and strafing runs on them. One U.S. Marine was killed and 17 were wounded as a result.
  • A U.S. Patriot missile shot down a British Panavia Tornado GR.4A of No. 13 Squadron RAF, killing the pilot and navigator. Investigations showed that the Tornado's identification friend or foe indicator had malfunctioned and hence it was not identified as a friendly aircraft.[131][132]
  • Sgt Steven Roberts, a tank commander of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, was killed when a fellow British soldier manning a tank-mounted machine gun mistakenly hit him while firing at a stone wielding Iraqi protester at a roadblock in Az Zubayr near Basra on 24 March 2003.[133] It was reported that no British soldiers were to be charged for his death.[134]
  • A British Challenger 2 tank came under fire from another British tank in a nighttime firefight. The turret was blown off and two of the crewmembers were killed.[135][136]
  • 190th Fighter Squadron/Blues and Royals friendly fire incident – 28 March 2003. A pair of American A-10s from the 190th attacked four British armoured reconnaissance vehicles of the Blues and Royals, killing L/CoH. Matty Hull and injuring five others.
  • British Royal Marine Christopher Maddison was killed when his river patrol boat was hit by missiles after being wrongly identified as an enemy vessel approaching a Royal Engineers checkpoint on the Al-Faw Peninsula, Iraq.[137]
  • U.S. Patriot missile batteries fired two missiles on a U.S. Navy F/A-18C Hornet 50 mi (80 km) from Karbala, Iraq.[138] One missile hit the aircraft of pilot Lieutenant Nathan Dennis White of VFA-195, Carrier Air Wing Five, killing him. This was the result of the missile design flaw in identifying hostile aircraft.[139]
  • American aircraft attacked a friendly Kurdish & U.S. Special Forces convoy, killing 15. BBC translator Kamaran Abdurazaq Muhamed was killed and BBC reporter Tom Giles and World Affairs Editor John Simpson were injured. The incident was filmed.[140]
  • Fusilier Kelan Turrington, of the 1st Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was killed by machine-gun fire from a British tank.[141]
  • American soldier Mario Lozano killed an Italian intelligence officer Nicola Calipari and is suspected of wounding Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena in Baghdad. Sgrena was rescued from a kidnapping by Calipari, and it was claimed that the car they were escaping in failed to stop at an American checkpoint, whereupon U.S. soldiers opened fire. Video evidence shows the car was respecting speed limits and proceeding with its headlights on. The shooting commenced well before 50 meters, in contrast with what Lozano and other soldiers testified.[142]
  • During a raid on 16 July 2006 to apprehend a key terrorist leader and accomplice in a suburb of North Basra, Cpl John Cosby, of the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment, was killed by a 5.56 mm round from a British-issued SA80. It was ruled to be a case of friendly fire by the coroner. It was reported that the British forces who shot him were unclear about the rules of engagement.[143][144]
  • An American airstrike killed eight Kurdish Iraqi soldiers. Kurdish officials advised U.S. helicopters hit the men who were guarding a branch of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Mosul. The U.S. military said the attack was launched after soldiers identified armed men in a bunker near a building reportedly used for bomb-making, and that American troops called for the men to put down their weapons in Arabic and Kurdish before launching the strike.[145]
  • Dave Sharrett, II was shot and killed in a firefight with insurgents near the village of Bichigan, north of Baghdad in January 2008, during Operation Hood Harvest. The incident has since been described as friendly fire.[146]

Gaza War[edit]

  • On 1 June 2009 an Israeli tank fired on a building occupied by Israeli troops after mistaking them for enemy fighters, killing three soldiers and wounding 20.[147]

Other incidents[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The Times report contradicts other sources that give the total deaths at 25.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b (French) Percin, Gen. Alexandre (1921) Le Massacre de Notre Infanterie 1914–1918, Michel Albin, Paris; Percin supported his claims using hundreds of items of correspondence from officers and men who had served in the French Army in WW1
  2. ^ a b Shrader, Charles R. (1982) Amicicide: The Problem of Friendly Fire in Modern War, US Command & General Staff College Survey No.1
  3. ^ Kirke, Charles M. (ed., 2012) Fratricide in Battle: (Un)Friendly Fire Continuum Books[dead link]
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